Eben Dönges

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Theophilus Ebenhaezer Dönges
T.E. Dönges
T.E. Dönges in 1948
Prime Minister of South Africa
as Senior Cabinet Minister
In office
6 September 1966 – 13 September 1966
PresidentCharles Swart
Preceded byHendrik Verwoerd
Succeeded byBalthazar Johannes Vorster
13th Minister of Finance
In office
20 October 1958 – 24 February 1967
MonarchElizabeth II (1958–1961)
PresidentCharles Swart (1961–1967)
Prime MinisterHendrik Verwoerd
Balthazar Johannes Vorster
Preceded byTom Naudé
Succeeded byNicolaas Johannes Diederichs
12th Minister of the Interior
In office
4 June 1948 – 20 October 1958[1]
MonarchGeorge VI
Elizabeth II
Prime MinisterDaniel Malan
Johannes Strijdom
Hendrik Verwoerd
Preceded byHarry Gordon Lawrence
Succeeded byTom Naudé
Member of the House of Assembly for Worcester
In office
1941 – 28 February 1967
Personal details
Born8 March 1898
South African Republic
Died10 January 1968(1968-01-10) (aged 69)
Cape Town, Cape Province
South Africa
NationalitySouth African
Political partyNational Party
Spouse(s)Johanna Schoeman (1904-1993)
Alma materUniversity of Stellenbosch

Theophilus Ebenhaezer ('Eben') Dönges (8 March 1898 – 10 January 1968) was a South African politician who was elected State President of South Africa, but died before he could take office, aged 69.

Early life[edit]

Eben Donges was born on 8 March 1898 in the town of Klerksdorp,[2] the youngest son of Theophilus C. Dönges, a minister of religion. He attended Stellenbosch University and received a law degree from the University of London.[2]:698 He was admitted to the Middle Temple on 23 November 1921[3] and withdrew without being Called to the Bar on 8 November 1928. When he returned from London, he became active in the National Party and joined its mouthpiece, Die Burger, as a journalist.[2]:698 He left journalism in 1927 and practised law.[2]:698


Running for parliament, he was unsuccessful in his first attempt in 1938 before obtaining a seat in 1941.[2]:698 He became a National Party cabinet member in 1948 serving as Minister of Posts and Telegraphs.[2]:698 Dr Dönges was a senior member of the National Party which ruled South Africa from 1948 to 1994. As Minister of the Interior, from 1948 to 1961, he was one of the so-called "architects" of apartheid, introducing race-based population registration, and removing Coloured voters from the common voters' roll as a prelude to disenfranchising them altogether.[2]:698 During his tenure as Minister of the Interior, Dönges believed that apartheid would continue only for the next two generations. In November 1953, after DF Malan resigned as Cape Provincial leader, Dönges defeated Eric Louw to become the new provincial leader.[4]

In the 1958 National Party leadership election following the death of Prime Minister J. G. Strijdom, Dönges ran for the party leadership and lost to Hendrik Verwoerd in the final round of voting between the two candidates.[5] Despite running in opposition to Verwoerd for the office of Prime Minister, he was still included in the new cabinet and served as the Minister of Finance from 1958 to 1966.[2]:698 After the assassination of Prime Minister Verwoerd, Dönges became acting Prime Minister on 6 September 1966 until a National Party congress named B. J. Vorster to succeed to the premiership.[2]:698

The state funeral of Dr. T. E. Dönges. Cape Town, January 1968

Dönges was elected to the titular office of State President to succeed C.R. Swart on his retirement on 1 June 1967, but suffered a stroke and fell into a coma before he could take office.[2]:698 He died on 10 January 1968 without regaining consciousness.[2]:698 His deputy Tom Naudé acted for him until 6 December 1967 when he officially replaced Dönges.


He received the posthumous honours granted to a former State President: a state funeral and his effigy on the following year's coins. There is a school in Cape Town named after him, Eben Dönges High School and another primary school in Bothaville, Eben Dönges Primary School, as well as the Eben Dönges Hospital in Worcester.[6]


  1. ^ "Keesing's World News Archive". www.keesings.com. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lentz, Harris M. (2014). Heads of States and Governments Since 1945. Routledge. p. 912. ISBN 9781134264902.
  3. ^ Sturgess, H.A.C. (1949). Register of Admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. Butterworth & Co. (Publishers) Ltd.: Temple Bar. Vol. 3, p.864.
  4. ^ Koorts, Lindie (2014). DF Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner Nationalism. Tafelberg. p. 459. ISBN 9780624055884.
  5. ^ Schoeman, Ben. (1978). Ben Schoeman : my lewe in die politiek. Perskor-Uitgewery. ISBN 062801466X. OCLC 749916775.
  6. ^ Eben Dönges HS, home, retrieved August 2014

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Naudé
Minister of Finance of South Africa
Succeeded by
Nicolaas Johannes Diederichs
Preceded by
Harry Gordon Lawrence
Minister of the Interior of South Africa
Succeeded by
Tom Naudé